Co-Author, Robbie Hunizker with one of his long term customers. A working partnership that involves respect, communication, and professionalism is crucial to the success of your horse.
by Steve Sermersheim, CJF TE, AWCF and Robbie Hunizker, CJF
The relationship between the farrier and owner or trainer is an important, yet often over-looked, part in the success of the equine athlete. It is over-looked by owners. It is over-looked by trainers. It can even be over-looked by farriers. However, a good, solid relationship with your farrier is critical in order to be successful with your horse, whether you are competing or just riding for fun.
Talking to your farrier about any concerns you have is key to good horse management. You are with your horse every day. You should be able to recognize and communicate with your farrier if your horse is having soundness issues or is not performing to his potential. With the internet and social media networks, information on hoof care and shoeing is abundant these days. These sources are easy to access but may not always the best source for advice. While there is plenty of good, accurate information to be found on the web there is also a lot of misinformation. Be cautious and bear in mind that anyone can promote shoeing techniques and products on the internet, regardless of knowledge or qualifications. Remember, every horse differs in conformation, attitude, training level, and natural ability. Equine athletes are as individual as their riders. What works for your friend’s horse may not work for your horse. Respect and trust your farrier’s judgment. Likewise, good farriers will respect your opinion.
Below are tips to help solidify your relationship with your farrier. These are common sense things you should reasonably expect from your farrier as well as things you should provide your farrier. You will be pleasantly surprised by the positive relationship that will flourish by following this advice.
What you should expect from your farrier:
The farrier you choose should be competent and professional. He/she should be educated and understand the specific discipline in which you are participating. Most farriers work effectively on multiple types of horses, but usually focus their skills on only one or two disciplines. Find a farrier who excels in the discipline in which you are competing. For example, you would not go to a cardiologist for a slipped disc in your back. Likewise, you should not use a farrier who specializes in padded, gaited horses for your grand prix dressage horse.
Your farrier should be proactive in attending continuing education and/or certification testing opportunities. There is no excuse for a farrier not to update his skills and knowledge. There are seminars on shoeing and lameness as well as certification readily available all over the world. Although certification in the U.S. is voluntary, it is an important part of farrier education. The American Farriers Association is the most successful certification program in the USA and offers three levels of certification (certified, tradesman and journeyman) and three separate endorsements (therapeutic, forging and education). Ask your farrier what level of certification he has achieved, he will be proud to tell you.
A farrier should arrive on time for your appointment. As we all know, our days do not always go according to plan. It is not unreasonable to expect a phone call from the farrier when he is delayed or unable to keep your appointment.
Your farrier should be able to answer all your hoof care and lameness questions. Farriers should be knowledgeable of equine anatomy and how it correlates with your horse’s specific needs. This knowledge is essential for your farrier to correctly and appropriately shoe your horse. This is critical in order for your farrier to be able to discuss lameness issues with your veterinarian as well as fill your horse’s shoeing prescription.
A farrier should have the ability to build a variety of shoes for your horse’s individual needs. Not every type or style of shoe can be purchased from the horseshoe supply company. However, skilled farriers can forge shoes tailored to your horse’s needs.
A farrier should display a presentable appearance and demeanor. Your farrier is there for your horses and/or clients. The hoof care professional you choose is a reflection of you and should be respectful of your horse, property and business. Appearance and attitude are a reflection of your farrier’s pride in a job well done.
Perhaps most importantly, a farrier should know when he is in over his head. Farriers are sometimes presented with lameness or injury issues that they have not yet encountered. This is why your farrier’s involvement in the AFA is so important to you and your horse. It provides him access to thousands of farriers, one of which has undoubtedly treated similar issues and can offer sound advice or a second opinion.
A team approach lends itself to success.
What your farrier expects from you:
A good environment is essential for a farrier to do his job effectively. The shoeing area should be clean and dry. The work area should be level, shaded, and well-lit. It should be ventilated in the summer and out of the elements in the winter. It also should be free of obstacles including equipment, children, and dogs.
Poor work spaces for a farrier.
Ideal farrier work space in a stable.
A competent horse holder or safe cross ties should be available. Be prepared to assist your farrier. Your farrier’s apprentice or helper is not there to hold horses.
If your horse will not stand for shoeing, you must control the horse or ask a vet to provide sedation. Farriers should never sedate your horse. Shoeing a horse that will not stand is extremely difficult to accomplish properly. Remember, your farrier is not there to train your horse to stand. It is your responsibility to work with your horse to make sure it stands quietly. Be aware of farrier safety! These components are very important for the safety of the farrier as well as your horse.
Be conscientious in asking farriers to add, or subtract, horses from the schedule. Farriers are usually a one or two man show. Their schedules are hectic and somewhat inflexible. Although flexibility is important, adding horses to the schedule can ruin your farrier’s well-planned day. If you are willing to ask your farrier to add an unplanned horse to the list, be understanding when he’s delayed because another client has done the same. You must also realize that when you scratch a horse from the list, your farrier will have to work hard to fit them in when you are ready. Most farriers book future visits before they leave. As we know, sometimes your farrier’s schedule has to be changed for reasons out of his control. When your farrier’s day goes awry, be patient and work with him to reschedule. He will reciprocate when you are forced to do the same.
Remember that the farrier is the expert. While communication with your farrier is key, telling him how to fix your horse or what type of device to put on your horse’s hoofs is not always the best approach. If you think you know more than your farrier, consider finding someone else to look at your horse’s hoofs. There are thousands of knowledgeable, well-trained farriers out there that can explain why your horse is being shod a particular way.
Have a backup plan for a farrier emergency. Ask for the name of another farrier to help in an emergency, i.e., lost or sprung shoe. Your farrier should know someone with the same shoeing philosophy that he can trust to take care of your horse when it is impossible for him to do so.
Provide prompt payment to your farrier when the job is finished. Your farrier works hard for you and your horse. Don’t make him wait for payment after he’s provided you a professional service.
As you can see, there are as many things to expect from your farrier as there are for you to provide him. Many people think farriers just slap a device on the bottom of a horse’s foot and everything is good. Unfortunately, there are many horseshoers that still feel the same way. This is incorrect thinking!
A knowledgeable, well-educated farrier is an essential part of your horse’s team.
Farriers and owners need to talk to each other to truly do our equine athletes justice. Communication with the veterinarian is also very important. He/she is a crucial part of your horse’s team. Keeping the horse sound and performing to full potential is difficult. Having the best farrier you can possibly hire is the best way to keep your horse sound. But remember, in order for your horse to truly be the success you desire, don’t overlook the importance of communication with your farrier.